Personal Growth

How to Fight Lust and Love Jesus (Part 2)

by Chris Pennington

medieval knight with sword raised

Note: In Part 1, I introduced the topic of fighting lust and encouraged finding true satisfaction in Christ and fighting with other believers at your church.

I want you to imagine the scene of a horrific crime. If you’re a lover of crime shows, you already know what’s coming. A forensic investigator shows up on the scene and starts analyzing every detail—every blood splatter, every hair, every mark on the victim.

Investigation is normal and natural. When someone is murdered, when a crime is committed, we want to know how it happened and who did it. We want to stop the killer from striking again. We want to see the signs and stop the next murder.

Eventually, a story comes to light and the main character often recounts step-by-step what happened and how it happened.

Let me ask you a hard question: do you ever do a post mortem after you sin? It’s a hard question because I think most of us would say, “No.” We want to move past our sin and try not to commit it again. No more thought necessary.

Today, let’s go to the moment of the crime. How do you typically fight temptation (lust or otherwise)? It’s worth giving your answer careful thought. What do you do in the moment of temptation? What decides whether a crime is committed or you escape the pull of your own sinful heart?

If you’re like most people, you tick through two or three reasons why you shouldn’t sin. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

Let’s take a real-life example. You see a sensual thumbnail on YouTube and are tempted to click. What do you do next? You probably think something like:

  • “I know it isn’t right to click.”
  • “Watching this video would be wrong.”
  • “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t look at this.”

On a scale of unhelpful to helpful, I’d put this more towards “unhelpful” because you’re just thinking through a few generic concepts. Generic concepts vs a pleasurable taste of sin (albeit very short-lived) is not often much of a match. This strategy may work in low-temptation situations, but it won’t do much if you have a real fight on your hands. It’s like bringing scissors to a knife fight.

God does give you a sword for real fights: the Word of God. In this post, I want to focus on only one strategy to fighting lust, biblical meditation.

Strategy 3: Fight with A Real Sword

The Bible isn’t magic, and invoking Bible verses like magic will do little good. So how do you wield the Bible? You meditate on it. Bible meditation, then, is how you fight with the Sword of the Word of God.

Why should you meditate to fight temptation?

I’d like to offer four reasons with little explanation (to keep this post reasonable in length).

  1. What you’re doing isn’t working.
  2. The Bible commends it.

    “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:19)

  3. Jesus demonstrates it.

    “It is written…” (Luke 4:4, 8, 12)1

  4. Meditation sanctifies you (i.e., sets you apart).

    “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17) “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2 Timothy 2:7)

A Practical Guide

The type of meditation I’m talking about takes time and effort—there are no shortcuts! Very generally, I’d recommend at least the following:

  1. Take a long passage when possible (we’ll use 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 as our example).
  2. Read through the passage slowly at least five times a day, looking at the words as you voice them aloud.
  3. Pray through one of the verses each day, talking to God about what the verse means, it’s implications for how you live, and asking for the Spirit of God to help you believe it.
  4. Summarize the passage in your own words once a week without looking at the passage. Compare your summary with the passage. What did you leave out? Did you add anything? This will expose areas you haven’t meditated on well enough.
  5. Continue this practice until you find 1) you’ve “accidentally” memorized it and 2) you keep catching yourself daydreaming on the verse.

I told you it was work! If you’ve never meditated on a passage like this before, you’re in for a treat! It feels like God’s kneading the truths into your heart over and over again until it starts to become a part of you!

When you meditate on passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8, it’s like crafting and honing a sword. When you face temptation to lust, you’ll find yourself responding instinctively with 1 Thessalonians 4. Here are the kinds of biblical motivations that will spring to mind rooted in the specific statements of God:

  • God’s will is that I am holy and set apart.
  • God wants me to run away (abstain) from all forms of sexual immorality.
  • God desires that I control my body rather than be controlled and driven by my passions.
  • My body is intended for honor and holiness because it belongs to God.
  • Unbelievers are controlled by the passion of lust and if I give into this lust, I’ll be living like I do not know God.
  • Lust is never individual; I’ll be wronging my wife, my children, my church, and the women I’m lusting after.
  • The Lord of all will avenge this sin and to ignore this is to ignore the solemn warning of God.
  • If I disregard God’s warning, I am directly disregarding God and the Spirit of God who is bringing this Bible passage to mind.2

You may have been able to list out ideas like this before meditating, but once you meditate, these Spirit-applied realities loom like mountains and fill your vision in the moment of temptation.

It’s not the memorization of concepts that gives you power, but the Spirit’s work of making you believe the words of God as you meditate upon them.

Remember: There is no shortcut to biblical meditation. Without time and Spirit-driven effort, you will not experience the reality-transforming power of the Bible in temptation. You can’t cram in the moment; you can’t get what you need from thirty seconds a day or with half-hearted effort.

An Important Reminder: Meditate on Christ

When you’re trying to fight any sin, remember that you’re not primarily running from something, you’re running to Someone!

When looking for passages, it’s important to choose some passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 to motivate you to avoid certain sins. But it’s just as important to meditate on passages commending the beauties of Jesus Christ.

Especially in meditation, Christ must be central. Meditate on Hebrews 1:1–7 or John 10’s Good Shepherd, fix your eyes on the gospel accounts of the cross, or bask in the light of Ephesians 2:1–10. Look at Jesus and be taken by his beauty.

Conclusion: Meditation for Dads

This short series is not ultimately about lust. It’s about pursuing Christ with our minds and hearts. As we look on his face, we are drawn to him. All cheap substitutes loose their shimmer and pull and we develop a healthy fear of displeasing the One we love.

Once you start taking thoughts captive and allowing the Spirit of God to direct and shape your heart, mind, and affections through meditation, you’ll find innumerable applications for fatherhood.

Just tonight my daughter was struggling to fall asleep because she couldn’t stop thinking about a scary story she’d heard. I sat on her bed and meditated together on God’s control, his care for her, and the ways he’s shown her he loves her.

I asked her questions like, “What good things has God given you to show you he loves you?” and “How has God taken care of you before?” As she answered, I kept pressing her for more examples and she kept thinking of more! When I left her, she turned to me and said, “Dad, I’m not scared anymore.” It’s hard to be scared of pretend stories when you’re thinking about the very real sovereign God of the universe who loves you.

As a parent, you quickly realize it’s difficult to teach your children something you’re not practicing. As you learn to meditate, however, you’ll find constant opportunities to teach your children and an ease in demonstrating it to them.

When your children learn to meditate day and night on God’s truth, they’ll be stable and fruitful like the tree in Psalm 1:3. And they’ll keep trusting God even when heat and drought comes like the tree of Jeremiah 17:7–8.

Imagine growing up in a home where your dad helped you meditate and delight in God and his things! Imagine entering Junior High knowing how to take the anxieties of change and apply biblical passages to them. Imagine entering college or your first job having 10+ years of training at home on biblical meditation.

This can be your children’s story, but (very likely) only if it’s your present experience first.

The fight against lust is bigger than lust. It’s not even about lust. It’s about finding the deepest, most satisfying life in Jesus and letting his words shape your heart, mind, and affections.

It’s about becoming the sort of tree that grows strong over decades of biblical meditation and then instilling that stability into your own children. And it’s ultimately about looking to Jesus because in him you already have love, life, and eternal joys forevermore.

Note: Read Part 3 here.


  1. In Luke, Jesus shows the fruit of biblical meditation. He doesn’t simply quote the Old Testament Scripture, he teases out its implications in his answers. In other words, he shows that he’s meditated on the meaning of the passages.

  2. I’ve only listed a few of the biblical motivations of the passage.

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